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Old Colorado City Historical Society 'overwhelmed' by turnout for July 19 Tunnel Tales

      
Leo Knudson (left), an Old Colorado City Historical Society volunteer, tells tour-goers about the long-ago tunnel below the Flute Player on West Colorado Avenue during the society's Tunnel Tales event July 19.
Westside Pioneer photo
“Tunnel Tales,” a first-time fundraiser for the Old Colorado City Historical Society (OCCHS) July 19, turned out to be “one of the most profitable events in recent memory,” according to Sharon Swint, one of its chief organizers.
       She estimated that about 200 people participated in the two-hour-long, self-guided tour. Featured were five Old Colorado City locations that are everyday businesses now, but in bygone days could have offered basement tunnels allowing secret passage for “proper” men who wanted to hide their nightlife shenanigans.
       Although some coupons were offered, most tour-goers paid the full ticket price of $25 a person, which also included a booklet with maps and tunnel-history information.
       “It was very successful,” said Swint, an OCCHS board member who led the research effort with fellow volunteer Leo Knudson. “We were overwhelmed. But I feel the best part was the history we provided to the community and the fact that we introduced so many new people to the Westside and its history.”
       At the stops, OCCHS-designated individuals dressed in turn-of-the-19th-century style told the sites' stories - at least as much as is known. Swint had pointed out beforehand that despite OCCHS research efforts, absolute certainty was difficult to achieve and, with no tunnels still intact “much of
An old trap door, left open for Tunnel Tales (but closed to access), once provided access to a tunnel in the basement of what is now the Squash Blossom Gallery.
Westside Pioneer photo
what we know is anecdotal.”
       In all, six sites were identified, with varying degrees of tunnel likelihood. One of them (the onetime Stockbridge House at 2801 W. Colorado Ave.) was not on the tour because the current owners chose not to participate. But the booklet that the OCCHS provided for tour-goers states that the site may have had three tunnels in all.
       One of the tunnels reportedly led to a “small room west under the garden area,” the booklet reads. The story is told that Charles [Stockbridge] met with no-prohibition citizens (wets) and local madams in this room, and the tunnel made it possible to avoid his daughters and wife running into these guests.”
       The five sites on the tour are listed below, including the original-name/business info, as well as the comments in quotes, which are extracted from the tour booklet.
       - The Flute Player, 2511 W. Colorado Ave., currently owned by John and Linda Edwards. Original building and/or business name: the Windsor Saloon. “There is an arched entrance, rock sides and wood finished ceiling… We assume the
Above is an edited version of a map created by the Old Colorado City Historical Society for a booklet provided to Tunnel Tales attendees July 19. The rectangles/boxes denote tunnel locations. According to the map legend, the markings with "xxxxx" signify "known tunnel routes," while those with "- - - - -" signify "possible tunnel routes."
Courtesy of Old Colorado City Historical Society
tunnel connected on the other side of Colorado Avenue.”
       - The Squash Blossom, 2531 W. Colorado Ave., currently owned by John Cogswell. Original building and/or business names: Davie and Berry Building/Court Exchange Saloon/Brunswick Saloon. “There is a trap door in the floor in the main room of the store. The tunnel [went to a] former rooming house on the northeast corner [of present-day 26th and Colorado].”
       - Lorig's Western Wear, 2612 W. Colorado Ave., currently owned by Scott Roney and Jo Nelson. Original building and/or business name: Colorado City Beer Hall. “Two arches [and] bricked up tunnels in the basement on the north-side wall.”
       - Sweet Elephant, 2502 W. Colorado Ave. Current business owner at that address: Susan Quintana. Current building owner: Elicra Investments. Original building and/or business name: Templeton Block. Tunnel location on the “south side of the basement wall (Colorado Avenue).”
       - Mother Muff's, 2432 W. Colorado Ave. Current business owner at that address: Rob and Sue Hirt. Current building owner: SAS Properties. Original building and/or business name: Waycott Building. “There are several bricked-up areas in the basement. These could have been tunnel entrances or windows. No one seems to know for sure.”
       The tunnels in Old Colorado City have been part of local lore for decades, especially with the long-ago history of numerous saloons along the south side of Colorado Avenue in the 2500 and 2600 blocks and bordellos along the same blocks of Cucharras Street.
       The tour was inspired by a recent book about tunnels dug for various reasons in towns around Colorado.

Westside Pioneer article
(Posted 7/22/15; Community Old Colorado City Historical Society)

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